Understanding the First Commandment

The 10 Commandments are the foundation of God’s Law. We can rattle off about 4 or maybe 5 that we know by heart like, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, but beyond those your mind may get a little fuzzy. Do you know the first one? Many people say it is “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” This is what Jesus said was the most important commandment of all so it makes sense we would think that is the first commandment, however, the first commandment is that you would have no other gods before God himself. At first look they seem different, but in fact, they are the same. Let’s take a look at those verses in the Bible.

Exodus 20:3 is the actual first Commandment and it reads, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5 reads, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” The first part of that passage, “The LORD our God, the LORD is one” is the essence of the first Commandment. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 when he answers the scribes question in Mark 12:28-30. It reads, “And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” If you love the One True God in this way, there is no room for any other gods.

How do these verses apply to us today? We are a God-fearing Nation, are we not? We think to ourselves, “Of course I don’t put any gods before God.” I thought that God was my only god when in fact I was simply deceived into thinking that was true. To paraphrase my pastor, he says that Satan’s best work is not through people who devil worship or those we think of as satanic, but that his best work is done through people who have a Bible in their hands. Think about who Satan is. If you had 6,000 years to perfect the art of anything, you’d probably be a master at your craft. Satan’s craft is deception and you better believe he is a master at his craft. 1 Peter 5:8 states, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

I’ve heard people say they don’t like to think about Satan and they don’t want to give him any credit. I fear that is a fatal flaw in their thinking. We are told to be watchful and sober-minded. We need to be aware of our enemy so we are not deceived. If you know what your opponent’s game plan is you will have a greater ability to defend yourself. How, then, do you know if you are being deceived? How would this apply to “bearing good fruit in keeping with salvation”? When you consider your opponent in any situation you always try to think “what would be the best way they could win?” and then you would use that against them. Usually we think of the most obvious game plans, but often it is the most insidious.

Satan may consider, “How can I get droves and droves of people to believe they are saved, give them a false sense of security, and then send them all straight to Hell?” I think his best platform is taking the 10 Commandments and getting people to generally think they are “good people” and that they love “God.” He would take the definition of God and he would lower people’s view of God himself through a faulty definition. He would slowly but surely take the human-valued perceived understanding of holiness away from God. He would take our basic human nature, our selfish nature, our sin nature, and feed it with pride. He would take the God of our youth and subtly, systematically, and systemically take God off of the alter on our heart and allow us with all grandeur to firmly replace Him with ourselves.

It is not about other “gods” like tiki gods or worshiping little statues. For people who identify with Christ, those who call themselves Christian, it is about getting them to worship themselves. We worship ourselves by doing things on our own. We worship ourselves by thinking our accomplishments are our own. We worship ourselves by pridefully thinking we are somehow entitled to life and everything in it. Our selfish prideful entitlement is our god. How do you then use this as a litmus test for our salvation? How can you tell if you are not obeying the first Commandment to have no other gods before God alone? Simply look at your life. Jesus gives us some obvious clues when he said we need to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

What does your life look like? How much do you love God? Do you love Him with ALL your heart, or just on Sunday from 9-10am? Do you love Him with ALL your soul, or only when you are hurting and crying out in prayer for his deliverance? Do you love Him with ALL your mind, or only for the few minutes a day you devote to reading the Bible, if you even do that every day? Do you love Him with ALL your strength, or just when it is convenient for you. I know this is a high bar but it is what it means to be a true follower of Christ. “It is unattainable” the Great Deceiver tells us. Satan has watered down over the decades the idea, reality, truth, and fact that loving God in that way and with that intensity is what is needed in order to be called a true Christian. The first Commandment is something to be highly considered when you work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

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